I was raised just south of the Mason-Dixon Line, or as we knew it, the IHOP-Waffle House Line. That means two things, one that I was heavily influenced by the American Civil War, and two, that to illustrate my opinions, I tell lengthy, somewhat irrelevant stories.
George Pickett was a moon-faced division commander for the Confederacy, a man who finished last in his class in West Point, and were it not for an oppressively humid summer morning in Gettysburg, Pa., might be best known today for his participation in the Pig War of 1859. He was one of those guys who could probably fix your truck, but you wouldn’t want doing your taxes, if you know what I’m saying. » Continue Reading.
Ben Harder’s life story intrigued me after I encountered his name while researching a violent crime of more than a hundred years ago.
He was described as an elderly, disabled war veteran, a “helpless cripple, and he drags himself about from place to place on his hands and knees.” I wondered, could that have been true? Could he have made his way through life in that manner for more than forty years? The need to know was irresistible, so the digging began.
Pete Gilbert Jr. is set to lead a round table discussion on the 118th New York Volunteer Infantry, on Sunday, March 25th at 2 pm at the Ogdensburg Public Library.
The 118th New York Volunteer Infantry, or “Adirondack Regiment,” was formed with enlistees from Clinton, Essex, and Warren counties in 1862, and eventually took part in the Peninsula Campaign, the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, and the battles of Cold Harbor, Petersburg, the Crater, and Richmond. » Continue Reading.
On Sunday, April 30th, at 2 pm at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association, Dallas Robinson will give a first-person presentation in the character of a member of the 118th New York Volunteers at the North Country Civil War Round Table.
The “Adirondack Regiment” was formed from enlistees from Clinton, Essex, and Warren counties in 1862, and eventually was the first Union unit inside Richmond, the Confederate capital, at the end of the war. Robinson is a veteran Civil War re-enactor living in Norfolk, and gives presentations on the Civil War at local schools and in Masonic Lodges. » Continue Reading.
“The Republican Party is the ship, all else is the sea.”
This famous statement by Frederick Douglass was more than a casual observation. Douglass was a Republican in a time before the realignment of American political parties. After the American Civil War, he became one of the Party’s busiest, and strongest, campaigners, especially in New York.
Republican candidates counted on his oration skills to inspire voters – both black and white – through Reconstruction and after. In fact, in the late 1870s, the Republican State Committee relied on his campaign talents. This was the case in Jefferson County when Douglass rallied large gatherings in Adams in 1879, and Theresa in 1880, near the city of Watertown. » Continue Reading.
Recently in this column appeared the story of Selden Clobridge, a teenage Civil War soldier from Turin, New York, whose battlefield career ended at the grand old age of 18 after multiple wounds that included limb loss. About 85 miles northeast of Turin, an even younger soldier took it to the extreme, receiving his discharge from the army before he became a teenager.
William R. Bastin was born in December in the town of Lawrence, near the St. Lawrence County line, east of Potsdam. A headstone gives his birth year as 1852, which corresponds with his age in three of six census records and his obituary. Other census records disagree by a year, suggesting he was born in 1851—but by any measure, he was far too young to become a soldier.
When William enlisted at Malone on September 14, 1864, he gave his age as 16. But by most indications, including interviews as an adult, he was actually three months shy of twelve years old when he joined the army, purportedly as a drummer boy. Things didn’t work out as expected, though, and he instead became a child soldier. » Continue Reading.
The small town of Turin in Lewis County has some interesting historical connections to the Civil War. Among them is native son Selden Clobridge, who was born in January 1846 in the hamlet of Houseville. In official records, his enlistment age is 21, which means he would have joined the army in 1867, two years after the war ended. It’s no surprise that he’s among the thousands who lied about their age in order to join the fight.
When he joined the army in summer 1862, Selden was actually just 16 years old. For perspective, consider yourself at age 16. What were you doing? Perhaps chasing boyfriends or girlfriends, goofing around a lot, and maybe beginning to consider your future after leaving high school in a couple of years.
At age 18, a time typically characterized by major life decisions — getting a job, going to college, joining the military — Selden was already a hardened veteran whose active army career had been ended by enemy fire. After two years of long marches, terrible living conditions, and dozens of battles where friends and compatriots were killed by his side, he was a survivor of war’s horrors—not completely intact, but a survivor nonetheless. » Continue Reading.
After two award-winning Adirondack non-fiction histories, author Glenn L. Pearsall of Johnsburg has turned novelist.
Leaves Torn Asunder: A Novel of the Adirondacks and the American Civil War was published by Pyramid Press of Utica.
Inspired by true events, Leaves Torn Asunder portrays a time rarely covered in Adirondack literature. Pearsall’s research included soldier diaries and letters, town enlistment and cemetery records, regimental histories, and visits to the exact places on Civil War battle sites where local men fought and died. » Continue Reading.
A pair of North Country men, born just a few miles apart in Jefferson County, left New York in their adult years and settled about 65 miles apart in Illinois, where each left his lasting mark. Together, their names were also attached to an institution in Arkansas that lives on nearly a century and a half later.
John Budlong was born in February 1833 in Rodman, New York, about eight miles south of Watertown. The Budlong family has many historical connections dating back to the Revolutionary War. John attended several of the best schools in the region: the Rodman Seminary, the Jefferson County Institute at Watertown, the Adams Institute, and Falley Seminary at Fulton in Oswego County. At the age of 18 he began a wide-ranging teaching career, working in North Carolina, Texas, and Missouri before returning to Rodman, where he continued teaching and began studying law. » Continue Reading.
Last weekend, the Saratoga Historical Society in California celebrated the 200th birthday of Mary Ann Day Brown, wife of radical abolitionist John Brown. The milestone was observed a few weeks prior to her actual birthday (April 15) to coincide with the Blossom Festival…. but, wait. Doesn’t John Brown’s body lie a moldering in his grave in New York State? Yes, it does, in the Adirondacks near Lake Placid. The grave of his second wife Mary however, is at the other end of the country, in Saratoga, California’s Madronia Cemetery.
It is all rather ironic since the life of Mary Ann Day started 200 years ago on April 15, 1816, in Granville in Washington County. Mary was a quite ordinary woman of the 1800s: quiet, modest, godly, and usually poor. Scores of thousands such lives pass unnoticed; history tends to remember women of wealth, beauty or offbeat wackiness if it recalls their existence at all. » Continue Reading.
Long ago, in the Lewis County town of Denmark – just a few miles south of Fort Drum, coincidentally – lived a family famous for its drumming skills. The Clarks’ unusual abilities began with the father, Orrin Clark, who served five years as a militia drummer.
Among his many children were sons George (born in 1844), John (1853), and Hiram (1856). Less than three weeks after his seventeenth birthday, George enlisted in the army, joining an infantry regiment. Displaying a musical talent similar to his father’s, he served as a drummer (the official military rank was Musician) for the next three and a half years. » Continue Reading.
A lecture titled “American Martyr: Why John Brown Is Thought Of As A Terrorist Instead Of A Hero” will be given by John Brown scholar Louis DeCaro Jr. on Saturday, October 17 from 3:30 until 5 pm at John Brown Farm in Lake Placid.
In December of 1859 John Brown was executed after leading an anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, part of the radical movement of tens of thousands of Americans struggling to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War. His body was returned to his farm in North Elba. » Continue Reading.
The 123rd New York Volunteer Infantry represented Washington County, New York, in the Civil War. Final casualty totals were about 166 dead (69 on the battlefield) and 158 wounded. Among those were 16 killed and 16 wounded from the town of Whitehall. The dead represent 16 grieving families and great loss for the community, a theme replayed again and again across the country.
Among the key words defining America is union, as in the opening words of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…,” and as in pledging “allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” Yes, it’s even in our name—not America, but the United States of America. » Continue Reading.
A biographer who has written extensively about John Brown, a civil rights activist who marched in Selma and a memorial honoring a youth leader who introduced countless city youth to the Adirondacks will highlight John Brown Day 2015.
The annual event will be held Saturday, May 9, from 2 to 4 pm at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid. It is free and open to the public.
Speakers at the event, an annual celebration honoring the life and legacy of abolitionist John Brown, include biographer Louis DeCaro and civil rights activist Dr. James H. Carter. » Continue Reading.
The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) has announced the publication of a new book, Clinton County Civil War Record: 1861-1865.
In 2010, the Clinton County Historical Association formed a committee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Since its formation, the committee has planned numerous lectures and programs at the Museum, and also took on a research project to culminate in the publication of a book. » Continue Reading.
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